This is hands down my favourite season for drinking: dark beers, big ABVs and big bodies. For all intents and purposes, these brews are the antithesis of your easy going session ales. Beers that are almost entirely unenjoyable in a tropical or sub-tropical summer become wondrously-exotic, post sunset fare. So without further ado, these are some of the beverages that can help you stay warm and cosy through the chill, rain and snow of winter.
Ashtray Heart – Evil Twin It pours very black with a slightly brownish head. My initial impression was liquid campfire smoke but without the brashness of a strong Rauchbier. There is a more gentle blend of elements here like; sweet wood and a dry, spicy linger which should make it more accessible to the casual dark beer drinker. A beer completely wed to cold weather (in fact the colder it is outside the better).
Dainton Manhattan Ale 2016 This beer was a complete surprise packet for me as it is not something I would normally pick up off the shelf but with beer, as with life, the best rewards come when you go outside your comfort zone. When poured into a glass that focuses the aroma, you get peaches and apricot for days. The body and perfect carbonation really disguise the alcohol content of this brew. For good reason this is often a hallmark of really great beers, and this beer for me struck that really great balance of sweet and dry that tapers off to a really enjoyable warm linger.
#011 American Red IPA – Exit Brewing A red is definitely not exclusively a winter beer. However there was some combination/chain reaction thing happening with this drop (probably witchcraft) that made me forget the freezing rain outside. Expect a dry and somewhat acidic quality that brings out apple, sultanas and grapes. The fluid itself is dark red to brown with a full white head. There’s a brief whiff of smokiness and a nice syrupy, plum to finish. This one also broke my rule on being unsessionable as I could easily order this over and over again. At the end of the day it should be an oddity for winter but it won me over really quickly.
Murray’s Hell of the North When I was adding the link for this one, I saw the first line of the tasting notes was ‘have with cheese’. I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me the first time around, there’s still a bit of stock left in my favourite haunts so I’ll definitely try that out. As it stands, I’m only an authority on this beer sans cheese accompaniment. It has a vapour trail full of sweet berries and dark chocolate and an oozing smoothness like velvet. The pour: a very dark brown bordering on black with an exceptionally creamy head. The first sip promises a little cut tobacco. Some brandy and heat comes through as it warms up and it lingers in the best way over every taste bud on your tongue. This is like Christmas in July with all the trimmings boiled down and put in a glass. Just when you think it has given everything up – there’s more rum, sultanas and liquorice.
Texas Tea – Garage Project This is one handsome beer – the fantastic bottle art does not exaggerate what’s inside. You’ll get a grapefruit aroma coming straight up out of the bottle as soon as it’s cracked. The first wave of flavour is grapefruit, pepper and allspice. It’s thin without being watery and it’s characteristics come together more like a spirit than a beer. You get some warming high alcohols and a low to medium carb. As it warms up, there’s the smell of native flowers like Wattle and Bottlebrush. The spice is not overwhelming and the overall impression is a really dry to tart sweetness with a dreamy complex linger.
If you’re looking for something to diversify your normal IPA-centric palate, get to your local craft outlet while the days are short and the mercury is hovering around zero.